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News / April 30, 2010

HSE sends Medical Card Dental Scheme down the plughole

by Guy Hiscott

The HSE has severely reduced the Medical Card Dental Scheme to one that provides only limited emergency cover for card holders.

Yesterday [29 April], the Irish Dental Association (IDA) denounced the decision, which will result in hundreds of thousands of card holders being denied a range of routine treatments, including fillings, extractions and dentures, as well as treatment for gum disease.

Earlier this week the HSE sent a circular to dentists stating that said it would only provide emergency dental care to eligible patients, with a focus on relief of pain and sepsis.

The circular further stated that additional care would only be considered in exceptional or high-risk cases.

The IDA has described the move as unsafe, unworkable and unethical.

In a press statement, Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the IDA, said his members did not accept the legitimacy of the circular, which he said formalised the creation of a ‘two tier’ system between private and public patients. He called on the Minister for Health Mary Harney to direct the HSE to recall the circular and to engage in talks with the IDA immediately.

Mr Hourihan commented: ‘Last month we warned that the 30% cuts in HSE funding would lead to nearly half a million less treatments for medical card holders. What we didn’t know then was how the HSE would ration the available number of treatments. Now we do. They have basically decided to rip the scheme asunder and turn an open, cost-efficient system into an extremely limited one that will only cater for people in certain emergency situations. Our members are being asked to provide inadequate and inappropriate treatments for patients and it just won’t work.’ 

According to the IDA, there has been an increase of 138,000 medical card holders in the last two years and during this year 144,000 further people will join the scheme.